Looking for something to get you thinking about FOI? Grab two videos for a weekend secrecy fest, popcorn optional. These also can make for a good chapter gathering or newsroom bash:
Secrecy. This 2008 documentary by Harvard professors Peter Galison and Robb Moss looks at the culture of secrecy in the U.S. government and how it actually threatens American lives. It features some FOI big dogs, such as Thomas Blanton and Steven Aftergood. No car chases or vampires, but it will make you think. If you can’t find it at the video store you can buy a copy online for $25 at http://www.secrecyfilm.com.
Rendition. This 2007 film staring Reese Witherspoon, Meryl Streep, Alan Arkin and Jake Gyllenhaal centers on the story of Khalid El-Masri, who was locked away in secret by the CIA and tortured even though he was innocent. El-Masri is discussed in the movie Secrecy too.
Looking for other journalism movie ideas regarding secrecy and FOI? Here are a few:
Good Night, and Good Luck (2005). Edward R. Murrow takes on the bullying Joseph McCarthy. Fighting for press rights and civil liberties.
The Killing Fields (1984). International correspondents cover the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia and the United States’ secret bombings.
The China Syndrome (1979). A television crew discovers safety cover-ups at a nuclear power plant. The movie was released 12 days before the real-life nuclear meltdown at Three Mile Island in Pennsylvania (An expert in the movie says that a nuclear reactor meltdown coudl “render an area the size of Pennsylvania uninhabitable.” Spooky).
The Insider (1999). 60 Minutes has the power to expose the secrets of the tobacco industry, thanks to a whistleblower (Russell Crowe). But do they?
The Parallax View (1974). Warren Beatty stars in this movie as a journalist uncovering a mysterious corporation and seedy politics.
Control Room (2004). A documentary about how news coverage of Iraq was manipulated by the government.
Erin Brockovich (2000). Shows the power of public records to dig up information to help a community. Anyone can expose corruption with enough tenacity.
The Fog of War (2003). Documentary focuses on the life and decisions of Robert S. McNamara, U.S. Secretary of Defense for Kennedy and Johnson. Delves into the rules of war and secrecy.
Thirteen Days (2000). Story about JFK’s decision-making process during the Bay of Pigs. Shows how the press can be played like a fiddle to hide secrets, including the potential start of nuclear war.
The U.S. vs. John Lennon (2006). Documentary looks at Nixon’s secret campaign to silence John Lennon.
Wag the Dog (1997). Demonstrates how spin doctors can control the media and public opinion (creation of a fake war).
The Running Man (1987). An Arnold Schwarzenegger science fiction action flick based in a futuristic totalitarian society where the government keeps secrets and manages the public through television. The DVD includes two short documentaries, one on the loss of civil liberties since 9/11 and the other on reality TV replacing news programming.